Medical devices

Bath Sponge – Use & Health Benefits

Bath sponge

People have known and used a bath sponge since the advent of ancient bathing cultures . Whether an original natural product or modern synthetic material – most bath sponges are used for body care during the shower or bath.

What is a bath sponge?

The first known bath sponges were obtained from the skeleton of the horn keel sponge. This is a species of sponge that lives in water and is found mainly in seas, less often in fresh water. The meshed skeleton, which is reminiscent of silk threads in substance, is exposed by washing out, fulling and air drying.

Until modern times, sponges from the Mediterranean were mainly used, and it was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that Caribbean sponges also found their way into European baths through maritime trade. They were used to cleanse and massage the skin .

People have been practicing what is known as sponge diving for around 6,500 years in order to obtain natural sponges. The sponges harvested in this way were very expensive, so they were considered a luxury product. In England, for example, the importation of a Mediterranean bath sponge for £113,000 made headlines in 1870. Around the same time, people began to cultivate bath sponges by artificial propagation – with moderate success.

Due to the progressive industrialization and development of new synthetic materials, the majority of the bath sponges used today are artificially manufactured. With an increasing return to natural products, however, the demand for natural sponges is increasing again.

Shapes, Species & Types

Basically, bath sponges are divided into natural and artificial sponges. The most commonly used natural sponges include the Spongia officinalis (“common bath sponge”) and the coarser Hippospongia equina (“horse sponge”) from the Mediterranean. Caribbean bath sponges such as Spongia barbara, Spongia graminea or Hippospongia lachne are also important. The bath sponge is one of the multicellular creatures that feed on plankton. It is a high-performance filter: it sifts through almost 2,000 liters of seawater every day.

Due to their animal origin, natural sponges are about ten to twenty times more expensive than an artificially produced bath sponge. However, not all natural sponges are suitable for cosmetic use. This is reserved for the horn sponges. When dry, the horn sponges are fibrous and rough when they soak up water, but leave a pleasant feeling on the skin when used for wet massage with gentle circular movements. They loosen dead skin cells and stimulate blood circulation . The skin becomes soft, the tissue is massaged.

The bath sponge harvested on the coasts of Syria and Asia Minor is considered the finest natural sponge. Above all, consumers appreciate those bath sponges that have a regularly round or conical shape. The most delicate bath sponges from the eastern Mediterranean are bought almost exclusively for consumption in Paris.

The so-called Konjac bath sponges are currently also very popular. They are made from the plant fiber of the white konjac plant, which belongs to the aroid family. Strictly speaking, they are not real sponges. Modern artificial sponges are not as absorbent as natural sponges and their structure remains harder. This effect is expressly appreciated by some users.

Structure & functionality

A natural bath sponge consists of a framework of horny threads that are arranged like a net or mesh. The material is called Spongin. Chemically, it is a collagen-like protein that serves to cross-link the spongy needles. However, the horny sponges that are suitable for cosmetic applications do not form any sponge needles, which is why their entire skeleton consists exclusively of spongin. This guarantees the soft consistency of the bath sponges. While spongin is rough when dry, it becomes very tender when it comes into contact with water.

Natural sponges are robust and extremely durable if cared for properly. Bath sponges have always been refined, for example by being washed in a hot soda solution. However, refinement is always at the expense of durability.

People who do not want to use natural sponges due to their animal origin, but who also cannot tolerate modern artificial sponges, can fall back on natural sponges of plant origin. First and foremost, the loofah sponge, which is obtained from the loofah cucumber, should be mentioned here. Loofah sponges are harder than natural bath sponges and are best used for body scrubs .

Medical & health benefits

In addition to skin care and stimulating blood circulation, bath sponges are also used in other areas. In the past, sponge compresses were used in surgical practice to remove fluid from wounds . The enormous suction power of the natural sponges was used for this purpose. A sponge containing iodine was also used medicinally in the past to treat goiter. Small natural sponges cut to size are also used in feminine hygiene as an alternative to tampons .

To this day, bath sponges are also used to filter water, for example in the field of aquaristics. However, the main area of ​​application for the bath sponge remains cosmetics, if only because of its cost. Here it is used for foaming and applying care products in the bathroom, such as soaps , shower gels or peeling lotions. These are massaged into the skin with gentle circular movements.

Due to its natural fibres, however, the skin can also be gently exfoliated using the bath sponge alone. It gently removes dead skin cells and at the same time stimulates blood circulation in the skin. Natural sponges are hypoallergenic and suitable for the care of all skin types , even the sensitive part of the face. They can also be used for dry brushing according to Kneipp.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.